By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 24, 201
SMITHFIELD — Another North Carolina school system threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union has closed the door on Gideon Bibles as well as material from other outside groups. The Johnston County Board of Education approved the ban earlier this month after hearing from School Superintendent Ed Croom and attorney Jimmy Lawrence that if one group’s material was allowed in, then nothing could be legally barred.
“This ‘all-or-nothing’ idea is only a partial truth and one that is often used by groups that truly are anti-Christian to silence Christians and keep the Bible out,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “It’s a sad shame that school boards so fear lawsuits that they easily acquiesce to the ACLU.”
According to the Smithfield Herald, Croom told the board that he was approached last spring by a variety of groups — from Mormons and Scientologists to atheists and agnostics — who wanted to distribute books and flyers in schools. Because some of the material bordered on “vulgar” and he didn’t believe he had any legal grounds to be selective, he decided to call for the ban on all outside materials. Though some school board members said they didn’t want to bar the Gideon Bibles, they felt they had to do so to keep out “evils” perpetuated by other organizations.
“The ACLU is right in telling boards that if you allow religious materials to be distributed, you must also allow non-religious ones. By the same token, if you let secular groups share their flyers, you must give equal access to religious groups,” Dr. Creech explained. “But that doesn’t mean that if the local pornography distributor knocks on the door of the school, you must roll out the welcome mat. North Carolina has laws against disseminating obscenities (G.S. 14-190.1) and school officials are certainly within their legal rights to deny access to students on those grounds.”
Dr. Creech said he understands that school officials don’t want to have to deal with legal threats and individual requests to hand out literature and that it is easier to simply ban every group from making materials available. But he said those who run for these offices are already “gatekeepers” for the schools, making decisions regarding curriculum, teacher hiring and more and that they should not shy away from allowing students access to a variety of ideas while making sure they are age appropriate.
“Schools are not supposed to be religion-free zones. Why not welcome community organizations to share their information — all on the same table for kids to choose to peruse or ignore?” he asked. “As for banning religious materials for fear that some group is going to slip in some vulgar, nude drawings, I would doubt it would be more provocative than what students are already being shown in some of their sex education classes.”
Although, as a Christian, he said he would prefer the Bible to the Quran, he said the danger of banning both in the interest of “fairness” is that freedom of religion is significantly diminished.
“Every time we say that a part of public life — and you don’t get more public than public schools — is no place for religion, we are losing our spiritual heritage and our right to practice our faith,” Dr. Creech said. “While this approach which says, “Well, it’s a bad situation, but if we allow the good we have to also allow the evil. Therefore, we choose that there be no good so that there can be no evil may seem acceptable in the short-run, but I think it’s tragic in the long term.”
As for another door closing on the Gideons, who have given free Bibles to schoolchildren for decades, Dr. Creech urged the organization to continue its efforts to reach students for Christ by moving its Bible distribution tables to public sidewalks near the schools, beyond the reach of the new policy. He also commended the organization for its efforts to increase student-to-student Bible distribution.
“When it comes to Constitutional freedoms, students can freely share religious materials with one another and should never fear doing so in public schools, as long as they are not interrupting instructional time,” said Dr. Creech, reminding students that they can read the Bible at lunch, between classes or any time free reading is allowed and that any religion-based club they start must be afforded the same access and benefits as secular clubs.
He said issues like the one arising in Johnston County can be helpful if they spark interest from students, staff and parents as to what their rights really are once they step onto school grounds.
“It may surprise some people to find out that Constitutional rights don’t have to be checked at the schoolhouse door. There are plenty of ways for students to practice, celebrate and share their faith, even in the public schools,” said Dr. Creech, who has led seminars on the issue.
To find out more or to schedule a seminar event at your church or organization, contact the CAL at (919) 787-0606.